The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection Blu-ray Review
5 classic Marx Brothers films finally make their way to Blu-ray!
For years now, film buffs (myself included) have been clamoring for Blu-ray editions of the Marx Brothers films and, at long last, we finally have some. The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection (which was previously released on DVD) is a 5 film Blu-ray set that contains “The Cocoanuts,” “Animal Crackers,” “Monkey Business,” “Horse Feathers,” and “Duck Soup.” If you’re a fan of classic comedy, it just doesn’t get much better than this Blu-ray collection. Not only are the Marx Brothers arguably the greatest comedy team of all time, but they also put out some of the funniest films of all time. Few things are as hilarious as Groucho’s one liners, Harpo’s bizarre antics, and Chico’s dopey misunderstandings. But enough of my rambling. I’m sure you want to hear more about the films in this set so without further adieu…
“The Cocoanuts” is the first feature length film starring the Marx Brothers and it is admittedly rough around the edges. The story about a Florida hotel, land, romance, and a missing necklace feels a bit too stagey at times and there are far too many scenes, musical numbers, and dance numbers in which the Brothers are offscreen. Still, there are laughs to be had here and it’s easy to see their immense talent in this (their weakest film).
“Animal Crackers” is an underrated as they come. The plot about an explorer (Captain Jeffrey Spaulding), a party, and a missing painting proves to be a great stage for great comedy bits (like the elephant in the pajamas joke), memorable tunes (“Hooray For Captain Spaulding” always gets stuck in my head), and hilarious Harpo antics.
It changes all the time, but “Monkey Business” just might be my favorite Marx Bros. film. The story involving stowaways and gangsters on board a cruise ship is the perfect showcase for Groucho, Harpo, Chico and Zeppo’s individual talents. On top of that, who doesn’t like seeing the Brothers running around, singing, and generally screwing around on an ocean liner? It’s the perfect setting for them to go wild.
“Horse Feathers” is one of the best sports movies period. The film (which is about a big College football game) is notable for having the Brothers play the sport in a big climactic sequence. It’s as fun and crazy as you would think it is and it’s easily better than the real thing.
Last, but certainly not least there is the most revered Marx Brothers film “Duck Soup.” The satirical war film is pure madcap insanity for 68 straight minutes. Everything from the iconic mirror sequence and the food stand bits to Groucho’s Rufus T. Firefly character and the craziest fast paced ending ever will have you howling with laughter.
Presentation: 1.33:1 1080p. How do the films look? For the most part, the transfers of the 5 B&W classics are impressive. “Animal Crackers,” ”Horse Feathers,” and “Monkey Business” look the best here with their crisp prints. “The Cocoanuts” video quality shocked me as the print has been cleaned up tremendously. I have seen some rough prints of this film in the past and it’s like watching a new film with this Blu-ray disc. Unfortunately, “Duck Soup” looks uneven. Some shots look clean while others are overly fuzzy. It’s not a bad transfer by any means, it’s just not on par with the rest.
Audio Track: 2.0 DTS-HD MA. How do the films sound? All 5 films sound solid here. Obviously these 2.0 tracks aren’t top of the line, but it’s just great to hear them with hi-def audio tracks now.
* A booklet featuring an essay by author Robert S. Bader.
* Inside The NBC Vault- The Today Show Interviews with Harpo, Groucho and Bill Marx (Harpo’s son). The in character Harpo interview and Groucho’s segment are particularly amusing.
* “The Marx Brothers: Hollywood’s Kings of Chaos”- A fascinating new documentary that covers their family history, vaudeville, film career, the individual brothers on-screen personas, etc. Expect to see film clips, rare stills, and interviews with film critics (such as Leonard Maltin), authors, Dick Cavett, writers, family members, and more.
* Commentary on “Duck Soup” by Leonard Maltin and Robert S. Bader. Maltin’s comments are always insightful but Bader is kind of a bore to listen to.
* An informative but not so exciting commentary on “Monkey Business” by Robert S. Bader and Bill Marx.
* A solid scripted commentary on “Horse Feathers” by F.X. Feeney
* A stiff, but fact filled scripted commentary on “The Cocoanuts” by Anthony Slide.
* Commentary on “Animal Crackers” by Jeffrey Vance. More of the same.
Overall Thoughts: The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection is an essential Blu-ray set. Buy it!
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